Friday, 22 July 2016

Feasting Japanese-style at Kanada-Ya, London

If you were to ask me what my favourite cuisines were, Japanese probably would not spring to mind. And I cannot claim to know much about Japanese food, but I do know that I like noodles. And edamame. And rice. And ramen.

So I was both intrigued and excited to pay my first visit to Kanada-Ya (to their second branch, just off Haymarket), which is famous for having queues down the street.
With my trusty eating companion, Georgie, in tow, we arrived at 6.30pm to find, actually, no queue at all. However after we sat down, the hordes arrived and it wasn't long till I could see a growing mass of hungry people waiting outside, desperate to get in for their ramen fix.

Inside Kanada-Ya, the lighting is dim but I really liked the interior.
It was simple, relaxed, stylish and fun, with Japanese touches. And encouragingly, the majority of our fellow diners seemed to be Japanese, which is always a good sign.

Whilst sipping our drinks - iced green tea for Georgie, less authentic Diet Coke for me - we perused the menu, umming and ahhing over what to choose. Alcohol-wise, it's beer or beer at Kanada-Ya, but I was thrilled to hear they will soon be serving cocktails too, hoorah!

There are eight different ramen bowls from which to choose and then an array of sides, and it wasn't long after placing our order with our delightful French-but-apparently-Japanese-speaking waiter that our sides arrived. First up: ume onigiri.
These were sour plum Tamanishiki rice balls. Whilst I liked the sticky texture of the rice, I got more seaweed than plum flavour and wasn't totally sold. Georgie really liked them but what with everything else we had, it was just too much to finish.

Next up: truffle edamame.
I KNOW! Oh my days. Smothered in black truffle oil and salt, we both fell absolutely in love with these. Best edamame I've ever had. Five stars. Definitely order them.

And to finish our trio of sides: karaage.
Quite simply, Japanese fried chicken with house mayo. The little bites were flavoursome, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and went down a treat dipped in mayo. But let's be real - most things dipped in mayo are great.

And we'd barely made a start on our sides before the main affairs arrived. Ramen time!
For Georgie, the truffle ramen. Yes, TRUFFLE ramen!

The noodles are hand-pulled (whatever that means) and the pork bone broth takes 18 hours to make. It's served with chashu pork collar, spring onion and porcini truffle paste. #truffle4lyf

Quote Georgie: "Mine just had ridiculous flavour."

Were it not for the pork, I'd totally have chosen the same one, but being not a huge pork fan, I went for the veggie ramen:
This one is served in a porcini-soya milk broth, with secret sauce, asparagus, mushroom, spring onions and avocado sashimi.

It. Was. So. Good!

The broth was salty but not overpoweringly so, and the creaminess was unexpected but pleasing. The noodles - although you can't see them, there were loooaaaads of noodles in there - were great. They softened as we ate, soaking up all that gorgeous broth.
And because I'm an unskilled peasant who can't use chopsticks, the staff kindly gave me a fork. Messy to eat, is ramen, but I think that adds to its charm.

There's only one thing on the pudding menu at Kanada-Ya: soft serve ice cream. Matcha is always on offer, plus one other flavour that changes. Not being a huge matcha fan, I was disappointed to learn they'd run out of black sesame ice cream - sounds intriguing, no? - but I gave the matcha a try anyway.
Yeah, it wasn't for me.

Georgie, however, she loves the matcha. All about the green tea, is that gal.  She even went so far as to say it was her ideal ice cream, being both refreshing and creamy. "It's indulgent in a light way," she assured me. So there you go. Definitely one for matcha-lovers.

But despite my lack of ice cream joy, I'd loved my dinner at Kanada-Ya. The food was authentic (I think), tasted good quality, nicely presented and full of flavour. The service was super speedy too so it'd be a great choice for a pre-theatre dinner if you fancy a change from pizzas, burgers or any of the usual culprits.

I'd like to end with another quote from Georgie - what can I say? She was on form that night - "Easy, quick, delish, boom."

Find out more about Kanada-Ya (and stalk the menu) on their website. Georgie and I were guests at Kanada-Ya but I hope you can tell I have been completely honest in my review. What are your thoughts on Japanese food?

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